A blog dedicated to the creativity and the challenges of making and designing with handmade art glass (lampwork) beads.
About This Blog
This blog reflects the thoughts, passions and struggles of a glass bead artist whose day job is manufacturing food safe rubber stamps. I share the joys and challenges of making lampwork glass beads and rubber stamping. ALL images here are copyrighted unless otherwise stated and may not be used without permission!Contact Holly
Several amazing sales venues have popped up on Facebook expressly for artisan lampwork! I always share my current sales on my fan page there. But you can usually find me on any of the following groups:
The Fire Diva's Trunk Shows continue! Silver River Trunk show today and tomorrow! Go HERE to see all the goodies! There are all types of handmade beads, gifts and finished jewelry. This will end tomorrow (Saturday) night at 11 pm. Come join the fun! Sonja almost never discounts her beads so come take advantage!
I wanted to take a moment to thank all of you that have supported my work. I so appreciate it!
I'm still working on stuff for the Trunk Show. I have a little album on my Fan page where I'm sticking stuff until I start loading the show albums. If you click the trunk show link, you can follow along on Facebook.
In the meantime, here's a few of the Wine Stoppers:
I have never in my entire bead making career sat down and only used ONE color combination during a torch session until Saturday. I made beads for hours on end using two colors and I was happy and pleased...until I opened the kiln yesterday. And realized I used the WRONG color!!!!!!!!! OMG! I'm so bummed, I couldn't bring myself to torch yesterday and today is not looking good either. This idiot bead maker is still licking her wounds... Please don't laugh.
Today's Fresh Glass Beads...
And a tool I've had on my work table for ages but am now in love with!
Confession time: My name is Holly and I have an addiction. I.... am a tool hog! I love tools. Maybe it's leftover from my childhood obsession with my dad's plumbing tools but I've often owned more and better tools than the guys I've dated. Glass is the perfect venue for a tool hog....there's always something newer and better! It's my embarrassment over this that keeps me from talking about tools very often. But I have to with this.
The proper name of this tool from Arrow Springs is The Lani Ching Shaper. And before you run out and buy it, let me tell you, there is something newer and better! I've had mine for years...probably since I took Lani's class in 2008. But I only recently figured out how to use it and why it's so wonderful. I only wish it were a bit longer so I could use it with my long skinny beads I love so much.
First of all, this all goes back to the dot challenge... My goodness! Is that silly challenge ever going to stop teaching me something??? It was early on when I was struggling with consistent sizes and I was taking a break. I picked up an ancient issue of the Flow Magazine and Craig from Arrow Springs had written a piece about the new Cylinder Speed Shaper. I read that and got back to work... and noticed the Lani tool on my desk.
Before, to shape a cylinder, I had been using a brass mold with very shallow sides...kinda like the opposite side of the Lani Shaper... which I rarely use. I find I have to make a specific size bead to have that side work for me. But I immdidately recognized the value of marving two sides a of a bead at once and the slanted groove side does just that!
Suddenly, making a huge cylinder was easy!! I had struggled with volume control and keeping things centered before...but not with this tool! And messy ends are GONE!
And here we go back to the dot challenge. While I didn't use tools in that...I learned something about repetition. While I'm a total dropout on the 2nd Challenge as I get ready for my Trunk Show... I am making LOTS of the same basic cylinder! I've had several regular customers request that I make wine stoppers / bottle openers as gifts this year. So every session...I've been making substantial cylinders...look back through those fresh glass photos if you don't believe me!
By making this same shape over and over, I've taught myself so much!
Footprint is vital when making beads to a specific size.
Once that footprint is set, unless I do something stupid, it's really hard to actually mess it up!
Marvering two sides at once really helps keep the bead centered perfectly!
Volume control is also easy breezy... heat a little where there is too much glass and a lot where you want the glass to go. Marver in the Lani Shaper and viola!
Heating and marvering each end one at a time off the edge makes a bead that can stand up on it's own!
Here are how I marver both ends:
I'm certain the Lani Shaper gave birth to the cylinder speed shaper and the Arrow Springs video of the speed shaper in action is pretty darn cool to watch. And yes, the speed shaper is on my covet list. But either one is a nice addition if you are making cylinders. These are "must have" tools!!
I was cleaning beads from yesterday's harvest and a piece flew off of one of my faves... so sad. I'm certain it was a heat issue but I SWEAR the bead was glowing the whole time! Sigh...
I was so proud of this bead... I never would have tried it had I not tried the dot challenge!!
As with happens with all of my "intact" accidents, I'll make myself a piece of jewelry with it. I can't tell you the compliments I get on my boo-boo beads and I stand there and tell people what's wrong with them! UGH!
Jennifer Cameron hosts and Art Charm Swap every year. Participants are asked to make one extra to be donated to an auction for Beads of Courage. And while making 10 of anything (exactly the same) would just about kill me, making stuff for Beads of Courage is close to my heart! The theme this year is love. I love glass and I love Beads of Courage, so, I hope that counts!
Here are my charms, ready to be packed:
Most of them are made from my jewelry making stash except for these:
These beads were made by Krissy Beads
These beads were made by Bindy Lambell
This little bunny is from my treasured stash of Palmtree Queen beads and he sold right away in a buy it now auction! Made my day!!!
And this guy... never left my house. Very sad 'cause he was my absolute fave. Made my a "really famous" beadmaker... His pom pom popped off while I was packing him!!!
These and SO many more are being auctioned off RIGHT NOW! Please go bid! It's for a GREAT cause!
Still working on the Trunk Show, so here's from fresh glass beads to ogle....
And a funny little aside for you. On Glass Beads Daily, when we do a lampwork artist profile on "Space Out Sunday," one of my favorite questions is always, "Do you space out on the torch?" I don't think many answer this question honestly because... we play with fire. My favorite answer so far and the one that rings truest to me is from Aimee Milan of Polychrome Beads. I think EVERYONE spaces out a bit at the torch! My goodness!!! We're waiting (and waiting and waiting) for glass to melt!
I ALWAYS space out! Whether it's thinking of the next bead for what bill I have to pay... my mind WANDERS! And... here is the result:
One of these things is not like the others... Now you know why I make big beads!
It's happened time and again at shows and online. "Real" glass bead artisans find themselves next to a poser. Someone pretending to be an artisan but she really imports the beads from China and sells those glass beads for pennies on the dollar. You sit there in your booth, hoping just to break even while the fake "artisan" is selling hand over fist. People really don't understand the vast differences in price between artisan beads and Chinese. And they more frequently than not will opt for savings.
So... let's take a look at what you get for your hard earned pennies when you go for cheaper Chinese glass beads. I ordered the beads below from a Chinese reseller on Ebay over 15 years ago before I knew what quality in a glass bead was. I just wanted something with a pink ribbon on it for my sister. Upon first glance, they seem ok. But not really... see that while line in the middle of the bead? That's bead release that has not been properly removed. These are dirty beads...
When I took a needle nose tweezer to them, look at all the release I scraped out with very little effort:
When you make jewelry with dirty beads, the beading cord rubs against the bead release and soon, the whole piece looks nasty. Over time, the dirt breaks down the beading cord cutting years off the wear of the piece.
But that's not the only problem. Chinese beads are never annealed. Glass must be returned to room temp from a liquid state in very specific and controlled stages. This takes time and costs money! Digital kilns are not cheap and are often the most expensive tool in the artisan's possession. When you don't take the time to do this, the beads can break easily, often right along the hole.
I am a klutz and you know I make big beads. I have often dropped one of my big honkers on my tile kitchen floor and.... NOTHING happened to it! It did not break because annealing made it strong!
But I dropped one of these on my tile floor just to see what would happen. Being a small bead, I thought it might not break... but it did!
Jewelry makers have to realize that their reputation can depend on the beads they choose for their work. Are you happy getting quick sale or do you want to be known as an artisan of quality pieces? Which one is likely to create repeat business? Is the money saved on these crap beads really a value or simply wasted??
You have to take responsibility when shopping. Grace, Austin Hamilton and their ilk import Chinese crap and try to pass it off as artisan glass, when it is dirty, not annealed and made in a factory for pennies.
When shopping in person, if you see someone selling glass beads much cheaper than other booths at a show, ask them who makes their beads. Is it one person or many??? Do they have boxes and boxes of the same bead? That's a dead giveaway. Most true artisans make 3 -5 of a similar bead but opt for greater choice at a show.
Online, know that even spacer beads should cost at least a buck a piece. If you are buy six or seven beads for $7 including shipping, you are getting Chinese beads. You most certainly won't even receive the beads in the photo.
Photos that show many sets in the same style are another giveaway. So is seeing the same exact item (often using the same photo from the manufacturer) for sale in different shops.
Narrow your search functions be searching for specific glass artists you know of or using the term sra. Be a responsible shopping and you'll find quality glass beads that allow you to create lifetime treasures!
I promised a customer my sketches for three glass bead focals she purchased ages ago. Every time I printed the photos of the beads, something would happen to them...buried under my desk avalanche...coffee... eh...
I finally discovered a drawing app called InkFlow that allows me to sketch over my own photos in the ipad.
The beads look much darker in the sketches so first I will show off just the beads. First, a long skinny in my Rio Party Series:
Then a focal in similar colors but with lots of metals added in an XL lentil:
Same as the lentil but a shorter barrel:
Once out of the kiln, I always saw them together in ONE piece. And my customer did too!
The first design is a lariat with the lentil sitting at the dip of the neck. Long chains (something kinda heavy to support the weight of the beads) wrap in opposite directions around the neck, dropping to each of the barrel beads with a beaded or chain tassel on the bottom:
The second design is a bib style necklace with a clasp at the back. Chain would come around both sides of the neck to the smaller barrel bead which would be situated on it's side, just below the collar bones. Crystal fringe could be used to fancy it up at all the wired connector joints. More chain drops to the even longer barrel, and again to the lentil.
Have you ever designed an elaborate piece with numerous focals??? The downside is... this would be a really costly necklace... but OH! What a SHOWSTOPPER!
The Fire Divas are all so excited for Amy Sims' Trunk show... starting tomorrow!!! Amy agreed to be the "guinea pig" and go first and, as usual, Facebook has presented some glitches. It simply won't allow us to put all of her gorgeous beads in ONE album!
While the majority of the goodies are here, there are about 10 more on the page of the event - so be sure and scroll through BOTH!
I've got my eye on this bracelet...and so lots of Diva fans! This piece has gotten lots of attention this week!
And this glass bead focal is one of the beauties that stupid Facebook wouldn't let us upload correctly. Isn't it pretty???
Amy's sale starts tomorrow and ends Tuesday. I hope you'll come and take a look!!!